From The News and Observer
DETROIT — The man who brought the Yugo and Subaru to the U.S. has a new project – becoming the first mass importer of low-cost Chinese-made cars.
Chery Automobile Co., owned by the Chinese government, has signed a deal with auto entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin and his privately held Visionary Vehicles LLC of New York to sell Chery’s cars in United States, Visionary announced Sunday.
The companies aim to sell 250,000 vehicles in five models in their first year, 2007, with the goal of selling 1 million units of eight to 10 models by 2012, Visionary Vehicles chief of staff Paul Lambert said Sunday.
Lambert said the company will aim at selling vehicles well below the price of models now available while matching the quality of Japanese carmakers.
“America doesn’t need another car company unless we can do it at 30 percent below market with quality and styling,” Lambert said. “We’ve got to have a Toyota-Lexus-like quality.”
The vehicles will carry 10-year, 100,000-mile warranties, Visionary said. No brand name has been selected. Visionary will invest $200 million in new Chery products for the U.S. market.
Bricklin was behind the selling of the low-cost Yugoslavia-made Yugo cars in the United States in the late 1980s and early ’90s. His company, Yugo America Inc., collapsed in 1992 amid falling sales and production problems in war-torn Yugoslavia.
He also started importing Subaru cars from Japan in 1968. In 1974, he founded a short-lived Canadian company to build a gull-winged Bricklin SV-1 sports car.
Chery is China’s eighth-largest automaker. It was founded in 1997 and sold about 90,000 vehicles in China in 2004.
South Korea’s GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. sued Chery in December, accusing it of illegally copying one of its car models, the Chevrolet Spark.
The exclusive distribution agreement is for five new Chery models that would go on sale in January 2007 – a compact sedan, midsize sedan, car-sport utility crossover sedan, sport/luxury coupe and an SUV.
“The North American automobile market is complex, competitive and always changing,” Chery President Yin Tongyao said in a written statement. “We are looking forward to working with Visionary Vehicles and taking advantage of Malcolm’s expertise as we enter it.”
Chery officials “are very ambitious people,” Lambert said. “They have a tremendous desire to learn.”
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